Cycle syncing is the practice of eating, exercising, and aligning with your strengths according to your menstrual cycle. At first something like this might seem a little more woo-woo or new agey (which I openly admit, I’m fully into), but it actually makes a lot of sense.
As women, we run on a monthly cyclical schedule — meaning our hormones differ greatly from week to week based on where we are in our egg-making and releasing process. Hormones (namely estrogen and progesterone) peak and plummet and our bodies, minds, and moods are impacted by these dramatic fluctuations.
The idea of cycle syncing is all about living in alignment with your hormonal rhythms by choosing different foods and types exercise depending on which phase you’re in. All while being mindful of what you’re drawn to in terms of work, socializing, and sex.
If you’re interested in this kind of thing, a good place to start is the book Woman Code by Alisa Vitti. As a functional nutritionist, Alisa helps you understand your natural rhythms, why they might be off, and how to get you back on track.
I decided to add cycle syncing practices to my normal routine to see if it could help me feel more consistently energized and dissolve some of the negative stuff that typically comes along with PMS and periods. We’ve been taught that these things are just another sucky part of being a woman — but it’s not true. Many of the bad symptoms surrounding periods are clues that something is out of whack.
I’ve been taking many cues from Woman Code, along with additional research from doctors, researchers, and holistic practitioners (like acupuncturists and nutritionists). If you’re interested in cycle syncing, here’s some helpful tips based on what I’ve learned so far.
Start tracking your cycle
Since going off the pill over two years ago, I’ve used some sort of period tracker app regularly. I switched it up a few times, and am currently using Alisa Vitti’s MyFlo. The app uses a calendar format and asks you to fill out a list of symptoms your body is experiencing each day. Additionally, it offers tips on what your food, exercise, love, and mind focus should be, and explains what’s actually going on with your hormones. While this app is specifically geared toward cycle syncing, using an app that simply keeps you aware of what phase you’re in is great. Clue is another that I would personally recommend. Really, whatever helps you easily track and understand it is great.
Embrace where you’re at
My periods were irregular for a long time after going off the pill. On top of that, there were epic night sweats and the calling-in-sick kind of painful cramps when my period finally arrived. I credit acupuncture for getting me back in balance and helping regulate my steez, but I wanted to find a way that I could help myself. So I got serious about adding specific foods that could help balance my hormones.
Knowing more about where I am in cycle has empowered me to pay attention and let my body lead the way to what it needs instead of me getting all forceful with it. No matter where you are in your cycle or your cycle syncing experience, it’s a good time to start and open yourself up to learning more. Learning more about my own body is one of the best exercises in mindfulness I’ve experienced.
Build on What You’ve Learned
Starting with the luteal phase (the time after ovulation and before your period — also typically the longest phase), I made a big list of all the foods I thought might help during this time. (Note: You can start at any phase of your cycle, I just made the decision to get serious during my luteal phase.) I started by thinking about what my body would need in preparation for my period, then I consulted Woman Code for more wisdom. I found that a lot of my natural instincts were right.
It’s worth saying that I think this is a pretty cool way to grocery shop each week. With a big list of foods to focus on, I started to think about dishes I wanted to make that used them. It ended up being a great creative exercise and one that I needed to get me out of a month-long meal rut.
The luteal phase prefers cooked foods to raw, but given that it’s the height of summer, I compromised with crunchy romaine and spinach-based salads topped with cubes of roasted carrots and quick-cooking sweet potato noodles stir-fried with garlic and scallions. I also focused on doing more strength training and checking things off my to-do list. I looked ahead to when my period was due and tried to ramp up the the omega-3’s, anti-inflammatory foods, and iron around then, while pulling back on the caffeine and alcohol.
When my period arrived, I still had cramps, but they were totally manageable and gone by the second day. I also didn’t have any night sweats and my energy and focus levels during the first couple of days were on point (something I can’t usually say). But I also didn’t push myself. I opted for stretching and walking over running and took an epsom salt bath while catching up on GOT. Then, after finishing my work early on a hot Thursday afternoon, I took myself to a movie in an icy cold theater. In other words, I had a treat yo’self couple of days and it felt good.
So far, this has been a really positive experience. For me, it’s not about following a strict protocol, but thinking about what I can add to my day. What can I add to my week that will support me nutritionally and emotionally? What can I let slide today in favor of doing something that will make me feel even better? Taking the time to listen to my intuition to answer questions like these is a big step in the right direction.
Even though I’m only about 3 weeks into eating for my cycle, I’m pretty excited by everything I’ve been learning and what I’ve experienced, that I’m encouraged to keep going.
I’m thinking about making a downloadable guide to cycle syncing that would include a shopping list, along with meal ideas, and a few recipes for each phase. Is this something you’d be interested in? Let me know!